Pa. Supreme Court grants Dems’ request to extend mail-in ballot deadline

Pennsylvania ballot
Photo credit Ian Bush/KYW Newsradio
By KYW Newsradio 1060

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — In a ruling that will greatly impact when Pennsylvania’s vote count is finalized this November, the state Supreme Court has granted the Democratic Party’s request to extend the deadline for postmarked mail-in ballots.

The high court, which has a 5-2 Democratic majority, agreed to extend the deadline until three days after Election Day.

Mail-in ballots must be postmarked by 8 p.m. of Election Day, Nov. 3. They’ll be counted as long as they arrive by Nov. 6.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court also authorized the use of satellite election offices and drop-off boxes, which Philadelphia and the heavily populated suburbs are planning to use to help relieve the pressure from an avalanche of mailed-in ballots expected in the Nov. 3 presidential election.

Gov. Tom Wolf said his office is reviewing the decision, but overall, he welcomes it.

“It really makes the access to voting better,” he added.

The election-related lawsuit filed by Dems sought favorable fixes to glitches and gray areas in the battleground state's fledgling mail-in voting law, following issues will mail-in voting during the primary election.

The lawsuit requested that if there are any errors on a ballot, the voter must be contacted to correct it. However, the high court said that’s an issue for the state Legislature, not the judiciary.

It says the law is clear: If someone fails to use the so-called secrecy envelope — the envelope the ballot is returned in — that ballot can be tossed and not counted.

The ruling also determined that a state law requiring poll watchers to only serve in the counties they live in is in fact constitutional.

Republican Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati and Majority Leader Jake Corman said the ruling “jeopardizes election security and timely results.”

“It doesn’t matter what the process is for casting a ballot if the results are in question,” they continued in a statement. “Our goal as policy makers always has been to work in a bipartisan manner to fulfill our constitutional obligation to make sure everyone has the opportunity vote, confidence in the system and that the votes are counted in a timely manner.”

Wolf and Attorney General Josh Shapiro countered in their own statement:

“Last fall, Pennsylvania voters were the beneficiaries of historic bipartisan election reform. Chief among those reforms was the ability for every voter to cast a ballot by mail, for any reason or no reason at all. This ruling affirms that historic legislation and allows counties to implement processes that support the voting reforms.

“Today is an important day for voters’ rights in Pennsylvania. Now, we and every county election worker will continue our efforts to administer an election that is secure, fair and accessible in every way.”


The Associated Press contributed to this report.